One of the great themes of the book of Proverbs is about wise (i.e. prudent) and foolish people. Note the following:
The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways -Prov. 14:8
A simple man believes anything,
but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.-Prov. 14:15
It is not good to have zeal without knowledge,
nor to be hasty and miss the way. – Prov. 19:2
A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge,
but the simple keep going and suffer for it. – Prov. 22:3
The word prudence refers to people who have foresight to take everything into account. They think long-term and give careful thought to their ways when they plan or make decisions.
The simple, or foolish, as described in Proverbs, function very differently. They don’t want to do hard work of thinking things through and asking hard questions. They are hasty, impulsive, thinking only short-term, and seeking quick solutions to alleviate pain.
Poland successfully fought wars in the 1700’s and 1800’s using horses and cavalry. When Hitler invaded their country with tanks and airplanes in 1939, Polish generals sent twelve divisions of men on horseback. The battle lasted three weeks. They were not thoughtful, or prudent, in their preparation for a possible war with the Nazis.
I have been hasty and missed the way more times than not, especially in my pre-emotionally healthy spirituality days. While I have learned from other people’s mistakes, it is out of my own many failures that I have learned a little something about prudence.
You can only make prudent plans or decisions, long-term, if you are a prudent person. Firstly, it means you are sufficiently self-aware, so much so that you can easily discern when another person is not. You can easily observe when they are skimming, lying, defensive, or exaggerating. How? You know it in yourself.
Secondly, you are a person able to wait, especially on God. You are not rushing. You are not anxious. You have nothing to prove. You have sufficient time to gather the needed facts before making a decision. You can withstand the pressure of those around you who want immediate relief from short-term pain.
You understand: “A person’s wisdom gives him patience” (Proverbs 19:11).
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